It has emerged that Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA) will confirm an order for three Airbus A380s when it reveals a new strategic vision for the carrier later this month. The aircraft will be delivered in 2018 and will initially be used for flights between Tokyo and Hawaii, according to reports.
This SuperJumbo commitment is understood to be linked to ANA Holdings’ successful sponsorship of a rescue bid for fellow Japanese carrier Skymark Airlines. The latter had an outstanding commitment for the A380 and Airbus was among its largest creditors with a sizeable voice in deciding a rescue package for the airline.
Hawaii is a major leisure market for Japanese tourists and ANA already offers three flights a day to Honolulu from the Japanese capital – two from Narita International Airport and one from Haneda International Airport. These are currently operated using Boeing 767-300ER equipment (the Haneda service will switch to a 787 between April and October 2016) and the Narita flights could easily be consolidated into single daily operation using a larger A380.
According to the Nikkei Asian Review, about 1.5 million passengers fly from Japan to Hawaii every year and ANA’s share of that market is 20 per cent, trailing the market leader Japan Airlines which claims about 35 per cent of the market.
The expected ANA deal raises more questions than provides answers. A commitment for just three A380 is small and could potentially only be a trial arrangement for the Japanese carrier with potential follow-up orders should the aircraft prove a successful addition to its fleet.
The reports highlighting Honolulu as a market for the type also suggests that ANA will be configuring the aircraft in a dense seating arrangement, perhaps similar to that being offered by Emirates Airline with its new 617-seat two-class option, or even offering additional Economy seating to meet the passenger demographic in this market.
According to schedule data from OAG, the Tokyo – Honolulu city pair market can be served on a daily basis with just a single aircraft with a seven hour block time from Japan and nine-and-half hour return flight from Hawaii. This means that ANA will certainly be considering other markets for the A380 and this could drive its final decision on its seating configuration.
For example if it is to use the type on its busy domestic routes then a predominantly leisure offering will suffice. However, if it is looking at other busy international markets that it serves with multiple frequencies - Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul and Singapore – then a less-dense two or even three-class arrangement could be better suited to demand.
We speculated earlier this year as to why Airbus had switched allegiances ahead of last year's creditor vote for Skymark from its reported backing of the the Delta Air Lines-sponsored Intrepid Aviation offer. The Y18 billion ($145 million) plan sees current shareholder Integral Corporation hold a 50.1 per cent stake in the low-cost carrier, with UDS Airlines Investment – a joint venture between SMBC and Development Bank of Japan –holding a 33.4 per cent shareholding and ANA a 16.5 per cent stake.
The deal provides ANA access to Skymark's 36 landing and take-off slots at Tokyo's Haneda Airport, helping it strengthen its domestic dominance at the increasing popular facility, providing additional feed to its growing international network. Find out more: 'ANA Beats Delta to Skymark Turnaround Mission'.